Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Broadwing Sedge - Carex alata   Torrey
Members of Cyperaceae:
Members of Carex with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Cyperaceae
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DistributionMost of the Coastal Plain, extending just into the lower Piedmont. Shortly disjunct to marshes along the Pee Dee River in Anson and Richmond counties. On the Outer Banks, known from Jennette's Sedge in Buxton, a large interdune marsh.

NH to MI and MO south to FL and TX.
AbundanceUncommon to locally frequent near the coast; less numerous farther inland. Its tall stem raises the inflorescence up to where it is readily seen amid other robust marsh plants.
HabitatFreshwater marshes, beaver ponds, oligohaline tidal marshes, interdune marshes (Outer Banks), depression ponds.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting May-July.
IdentificationBroadwing Sedge grows 1.5-3 feet tall with few, narrow leaves. The inflorescence consists of 4-7 ovoid spikes that are clustered together or slightly apart. The perigynia are flattened and widely winged -- they appear nearly as wide as long.
Taxonomic CommentsBelongs to the Ovales group of Carex; great care must be used in keying them out. FNA and Weakley (2018) have good keys.

The genus Carex is the largest in North America, and among the largest in the world. In temperate and boreal regions, Carex is often the dominant or co-dominant ground layer in many habitats. Seeds (achenes) are valuable food for birds and small mammals, while foliage is used by birds and mammals to make nests and as food by mammals. Species of Carex often look vastly different from one another -- spikes erect vs. drooping, tiny inflorescence vs. whopping, culms leafy vs. naked, perigynia beaked vs. beakless, stems densely bunched vs. single, etc. The genus has been divided into many sections (or groups), based on shared characters; some taxonomists have suggested that these be different genera, but that proves unworkable (so far). All Carex share the feature of a perigynium (an outer covering) which completely surrounds the achene (seed). This covering may fit tightly or loosely (like a small bladder), depending on which group or species. Details of perigynia shape, ornamentation, presence and size of beak, number of striations (or veins) are all important ID features. In recent years Rob Naczi and colleagues have stressed the importance of arrangement of perigynia -- whether spiral (3+ ranks) or distichous (2-ranked) -- and have named a number of new species as well as split off some older synonyms. Therefore, RAB's (1968) key, excellent for its time, can only be used in a general way today. Members of some sections of Carex are difficult to key out (notably Ovales, Laxiflorae, Griseae); this is in part due to variation among individuals of a species, or failings of the key. FNA has drawings of most species and some species may be found in two or more places within a key, to acount for variability. New species to NC, and new to science(!), continue to be found in NC.
Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS3 [S4]
Global RankG5
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